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The Ontological Basis of Strong Artificial Life

Olson, E.T. (1997) The Ontological Basis of Strong Artificial Life. Artificial Life, 3 (1). pp. 29-39. ISSN 1064-5462


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This article concerns the claim that it is possible to create living organisms, not merely models that represent organisms, simply by programming computers ("virtual" strong alife). I ask what sort of things these computer-generated organisms are supposed to be (where are they, and what are they made of?). I consider four possible answers to this question: (a) The organisms are abstract complexes of pure information; (b) they are material objects made of bits of computer hardware; (c) they are physical processes going on inside the computer; and (d) they are denizens of an entire artificial world, different from our own, that the programmer creates. I argue that (a) could not be right, that (c) collapses into (b), and that (d) would make strong alife either absurd or uninteresting. Thus, "virtual" strong alife amounts to the claim that, by programming a computer, one can literally bring bits of its hardware to life.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 1997 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Artificial Life. This paper has been peer-reviewed but does not include the final publisher proof-corrections or journal pagination.
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Department of Philosophy (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2005
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2014 06:57
Published Version: http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?t...
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/725

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